We don’t like to do things by halves at Pocket-lint. So when the challenge to test a set of tyres came along, we had to “think outside the box”. Well, not that far outside the box. We fitted the Armadillos to a London commuter and asked him to ride them to failure. Unfortunately, that commuter was me (the things I do for Pocket-lint../).
Specialized Armadillo tyres claim to be puncture resistant; they make the outrageous claim that riders can cover as much ground as they like without having to worry about getting punctures. Outrageous? Yes. Unfounded? Um, no, it’s not actually. Perhaps a little history on our test – using different tyres I had three punctures in 2 weeks and decided drastic action was needed.
According to the website, the Armadillo “uses a multiple-layer nylon casing that runs from bead to bead” which provides the solid protection – this is then topped off with the rubber. In the new 2007 version, this features dual radius design, apparently allowing improved grip in cornering, a concept used in motorcycles.
The tyres we actually tested were bought in 2003. Yes, that’s right, they lasted a full 3 years of riding and covered in excess of 5000 miles. Lets put it this way – during the time they were on the bike, I broke the chain, which wiped out the back wheel, but the tyre was fine. After replacing the wheel, the tube and tyre were fine, and lasted another year.
So how many punctures have there been since 2003? None. During that time I have covered thousands of miles on the tyres and they have finally reached the stage that they need replacing. I have changed the inner tube on the rear wheel once – when I snapped the valve! These tyres were run at 110psi through all weathers on roads in and around London. They have been through glass and roadside debris and have been totally reliable.
So, what is wrong with them? Some people say that they are hard to work with, i.e., they struggle to get them on and off the rims. We didn’t experience this problem – admittedly, they do need a good strong thumb, but the point is once they are on, you don’t need to take them off. They are of course heavy and as the label says, suitable for training and commuting. These are not going to win you any races, but there is also an Elite Armadillo range of tyres (that we have not seen) that might cater for those seeking performance.
There have also been some comments relating to grip, especially in the wet. In my experience, the tyres would lose traction in extreme braking conditions, but I’ve yet to find a tyre that won’t. I’m talking serious wheel-locking braking where you need to avoid that yummy mummy in the BMW estate. It really comes down to which is going to give – the brakes or the tyres? Of course, getting your weight back and controlling the pressure on the levers might stave off the skid, but I’ve not seen any evidence that these tyres are more prone to skidding than any others.
Overall, if you hate punctures, but love to ride, then the Specialized Armadillo is your best bet. Not a racing tyre, it's one for your training wheels. On test here we had the 700 x 23c tyres, which provide adequate comfort and performance. For around £20, the Armadillo tyres come in a range of sizes and are in all good cycling shops.
A fabulous tyre. Top marks.